I'm back!

I'm truly starting to think I need to be under tremendous stress if I am to post regularly. Who would have thought. Lol.

So, the plot is finally developing. I want to sit down and plan this story to the detail but I like how it's going so far and I hope you too!

Please drop a fav, follow or review! I would really appreciate it!

Disclaimer: This is a fanfic.

Chapter 8. "Four Seconds."

She was restless but then again, restlessness had been her constant companion since she became a General to the Calormene Army.

Restlessness, sometime down the road, had become her reassurance, and her oldest friend. How could she fear it, when she had learned how to work alongside it? More than that, how could she do anything but welcome it with open arms?

And so, for many years now, Katia had known exactly what to do when her oldest friend showed up.

She processed that feeling. She analyzed its sources. She came to the other side a much more readied woman.

That night though, as she processed the information she had received, she couldn't quite rest her fleeting thoughts. It was as if, the more the situation dawned on her, the more her thoughts escaped, almost as if her subconscious was running a race with her awakened mind.

A race she was losing miserably.

At last, after the umpteenth turn around the room, Katia sighed and grabbed her cloak, throwing a longing glance at her sword before exiting her chambers under the cover of darkness.

The Ancient Orchard was reserved for the Royal Family and their closest friends. It was a place that had been there even before Tashbaan was first built so even though its size had shrunk ever since the tall brick walls were first erected, it had never lost its magical, almost terrifying factor. It was a sacred place, for it was believed that in there, one was closest to the Gods.

It was a place where no weapons were allowed, much to her annoyance.

Katia slowly lowered her hood as she looked around, rendered into reverent astonishment by the sight. It wasn't the first time she had been there, but it always seemed so particularly unique at night. It almost seemed as if that space was no longer meant for the living, but for the ghosts that had once walked the halls of Tashbaan.

Katia walked around, eventually choosing to sit by a Weeping Willow. Its leaves, golden during the day, gray during the night, gracefully fell until they graced the ground, and danced gently, completely under the control of the nocturnal breeze.

Katia sat with her back leaning against the trunk of the Weeping Willow. She closed her eyes and relaxed her shoulders as she took a deep, calming breath.

After a moment, she opened her eyes slowly, almost reluctantly.

Then, she screamed.

"Geon!" She whispered furiously once she managed to get a hold of herself. She rushedly left the comfort of her impromptu hiding place, realizing with relief that no one was around to hear her. "I would actually kill you if I wasn't sure I would be hanged for it!"

Geon rolled his eyes. His raven hair, usually so carefully brushed, had been left in a disarray. "As if. You would probably be able to kill them all before they got to you."

Katia cocked her head, her eyes pensive as she pondered that. Then, she shrugged. "You are probably right."

"Of course I am," Geon scoffed, utterly offended to have been questioned. Then, he buried his hands in the pockets of his silk pajamas. "What are you doing here?"

Katia straightened at once. She had never thought about telling anyone the reason for her nighttime stroll, especially Geon.

The teasing would never stop.

And, because she was a terribly good liar, Katia shrugged her shoulders again, her lips adopting an easy smile. "I was up until late preparing our lesson for tomorrow. I figured I should take a relaxing stroll before falling asleep."

The young prince's eyebrows rose as he crossed his arms before his chest. "A stroll. Before falling asleep."

Katia clasped her hands behind her back. "Exactly. Don't you think it was quite a nice idea?"

Geon scowled at her. "You don't have a relaxed bone in your body."

"Geon-."

"You have never, ever, relaxed since you became General and you became General quite a long time ago."

"Maybe you're the reason I can't relax," Katia smirked. She put her hood once again over her head. "Didn't you think about that?"

With one final smug look, General Katia bypassed the young Prince, intent on going back to her bedroom.

And she was finally out of that place, safe from any possible danger when Crown Prince Geon decided he was going to get the last word.

"If you tell me I'll tell you why I'm up!"

Katia stopped walking at once.

She really wished she was strong enough to refuse him. She really did pray that the strength associated with her role as General would translate into the strength she needed to stop being a people-pleasing person.

Alas, no one could be perfect.

And so, she turned, her eyes closed in trepidation. "I had a dream. I couldn't sleep after that."

Katia waited for his laughter. Maybe he would come up with some retort, some teasing comment, something that would make her want to punch him.

One second passed.

Two.

Three.

By the fourth one, Katia opened one eye slightly.

And found the Crown Prince of Calormen staring at her as if he had seen a ghost.

"I had a dream too," Geon whispered.

"Oh," Katia replied after a second. She walked slowly back towards Geon. "Well, I suppose we all have bad dreams. It isn't quite an astonishing coincidence, if you think about it."

"I was by a Weeping Willow."

Katia took a step backwards in shock, air slowly leaving her lungs as she stared at Geon, hanging onto his every word.

No. It couldn't be.

Geon continued to talk, eagerly wanting to share the burden of his dream with someone else. "I was looking at this creature. It looked like the ghost of a woman, but it…she felt more alive than most people around me every day. And-."

"And she was holding a knife," Katia continued, her eyes wide. Geon looked at her in shock. "She was holding a knife and blue blood was dripping onto the floor."

Geon nodded slowly. "She was in Narnia."

Katia nodded as well. "And if we both had that dream-."

Geon sat on the grass, burying his head in his hands. "Then it wasn't a dream at all."

Katia closed her eyes before looking upwards towards the silver moon, noticing how the breeze was no longer comforting, but chilling.

"What are we supposed to do now?"

oOo

It took Edmund a couple Sundays but eventually, he found himself standing before the coffee shop on his own.

The first Sunday, his roommate went to him with an existential crisis concerning his attire for a date that afternoon.

The following Sunday, the morning began even more dreary than normal, convincing Edmund that it was a far too unromantic day to pursue any sort of activities besides reading and maybe sneaking into the kitchens for a snack when no one was looking.

On the third Sunday, Edmund was determined before he even opened his eyes.

Now, as he stood before the wooden door that seemed to be continuously moving to let a customer through, the coffee shop even more filled with its boisterous activity, he found his determination was not wavering and yet, it seemed as if this creature was rearing its ugly head within his gut, almost making him tremble.

Edmund squared his shoulders.

In another world, he told himself in a voice scarily reminiscent of Peter's, he was a King. He had fought many battles, conjured many plans, and faced far more terrifying threats.

A girl, even the girl he was there for, was no match for what he had gone through.

Or so he told himself.

"Get over yourself," Edmund muttered almost furiously, ignoring the old lady walking past him who stopped to look at him with a disapproving look. "If you back down now, Peter and Caspian will know. And once they know, there'll be nowhere left to hide."

And, with that fresh threat deeply ingrained in his mind, Edmund took a deep breath and grabbed the door as a young woman with her son walked through.

Then, he was in.

For a moment, Edmund stood by the doorway of the shop, slightly dazed as he wasn't used to being there on Sundays. Granted, it had been a few weeks since Lucy and himself had started spending their Saturday afternoons with their hands around a steaming cup of coffee or tea, but he liked to think that shop was already important enough in his life that its scene would always be known to him.

Still, the crowds that received him that Sunday still gave him a feeling of comfort, much to his relief. There was a level of activity hardly shown on his normal routine, of course, but that activity still mirrored the joy he felt at being there. Maybe for the first time, he could see how that place - in a world where Safe Havens were harder to find with each day that passed - meant comfort, safety and a temporary home.

Edmund smiled as he stepped into the long cue. He wondered what Peter and Susan would think about it.

He shook his head imperceptibly. He didn't have to wonder. Peter and Susan would have loved that place as much as Lucy and he did.

"You are aware today is not a Saturday, right?" Was Beth's way of greeting when he finally was first on the cue.

"I am aware of how the days of the week are ordered, thank you very much." Edmund replied, his cheeks slightly flushed even as he allowed himself an easy smile. "How are you?"

Beth rolled her eyes before looking around her and noticing that the cue had finally dissipated. Then, she stretched her arms behind her, ignorant to Edmund's deeper fluster. "Incredibly exhausted. I want to curl up into a chair and fall asleep reading a novel."

"How Victorian of you," Edmund interjected, some of his nerves dissipating when Beth threw him a dirty look. "Which one?"

Beth cocked her head, deep in thought. "Which novel in general? Or do I have to choose from the Victorian period?"

Edmund shrugged. "Whichever you want. I'm interested in both answers, though."

Beth hummed to herself, her gaze for once serious as she locked eyes with Edmund. The young man, who had been careful not to show any cringeworthy reaction as he was studied by those piercing green eyes, frowned when the young girl suddenly turned towards the different coffee makers behind her. "I didn't place my order."

"Yes, you did." Beth replied without turning from the silver, glimmering machines. She shrugged over one shoulder after a second. "I guess my answer may be pretty standard, but my novel of choice is Jane Eyre."

Edmund raised his eyebrows in surprise. He looked around, noticing how Beth seemed to be alone behind the counter and how all the customers were particularly wrapped in their own world. Then, he rested his elbows on the beaten wooden counter, leaning forward in interest. "Really?"

Beth scowled at him. "What, too corny for you?"

Edmund rolled his eyes. "I was only impressed. I could barely understand Charlotte Brontë the three times I tried reading Jane Eyre."

Beth smirked at that, but her eyes were bright with pride. "I could lend you my copy, if you want. I wrote all of these notes on the margins. They are sort of chaotic but we could discuss it…if you want."

Edmund wanted to taunt her but, seeing as how Beth looked like a deer under the headlights, he decided on being polite…that one time.

Instead, he hummed his agreement. "I can lend you my copy of Wuthering Heights. I didn't write notes, I'm afraid, but I underlined the passages I found to be the best. We could discuss it too."

"So Emily you understand, but Charlotte is too complex for you?"

Edmund shrugged with a cheeky smile. "I love a good mystery."

Beth sighed as if asking the heavens for more strength. Then, she grabbed a tray and placed two steaming cups filled to the brim with cappuccino. "Here's your drink."

Edmund stared at her. "I never ordered."

Beth stared right back with barely held frustration. "Just take the coffee."

"It's not coffee. It's a cappuccino. Two cappuccinos, in fact."

"The cappuccinos are expiring in three seconds."

"Okay, okay," Edmund laughed before taking the tray from her hands. "Thank you for the double dose of caffeine."

"What are you talking about? One of those is mine."

If he hadn't been trying to avoid making a fool of himself, the tray would have slipped from Edmund's hands.

"Excuse me?" Edmund voiced weakly.

Beth sighed, her patience hanging by a thread. "Did you actually think both were yours? I haven't taken my break yet and you're in a clear need of education when it comes to literature. Duty calls."

Edmund scoffed. "Our first date and you're already educating me? I'm impressed."

One second passed.

Two.

Three.

By the fourth, the fifteen-year-old behind the counter blinked. "I don't want this to be a date."

If the tray would have fallen from Edmund's hands at that moment, he wouldn't have cared. He was too devastated to care.

"Oh," Edmund finally replied, valiantly making the effort of sticking a smile on his face. "Don't worry about it. It was just an idea."

"No, no!" Beth interjected, for once forgetting her cool façade. She almost reached for Edmund before remembering where she was, choosing instead to clasp her hands behind her back. "What I meant was that I want our date to be when I'm not on the clock! Somewhere other than here, where it's just the two of us."

Edmund blinked, feeling faint and hot all at once. "Oh."

Beth nodded slowly, the blush across her cheeks slowly traveling towards her neck. "Oh."

"I'm glad we agree." Edmund slowly backed from the counter. "I'm going to take my seat."

Beth smiled slightly too brightly. "I'll be right over. I might bring some cookies. On the house."

Edmund nodded seriously at that. "Well, you will be in need of sustenance if you are to educate me today."

As they laughed, the Narnian King and the English Barista were ignorant of the young woman staring at them from the other side of the window.

Lucy shook her head at them before snorting as she continued her way. She had shoes to buy.

"Finally," Lucy muttered to herself as she crossed the street, her smile slightly warmer.

"Those two idiots finally figured it out."

oOo

It took a while for the young couple to terminate their stroll but once they did, they soon shared the somber mood of their co-ruler.

Still in Peter's study, the trio processed the new turn of events in silence, each of them frustrated that their peace had been so short-lived. Peter sat behind his desk, his eyes distant, his hands nervously cracking his knuckles as he mentally went through every possible outcome. Caspian sat by the other side of the desk, his back tense as he stared out of the window, into the freedom related to a beautiful sunny day in Narnia. Susan walked slowly from side to side of the library, her elegant fingers slowly running across the spine of random books, her gaze however distant.

Peter suddenly sighed, breaking the silence. "For once, I must admit to being happy of our brother and sister's absence. This, a war so soon after surviving the last one, is the last thing I want for them."

Neither of them bothered voicing the obvious.

If Edmund and Lucy had been there, the team would have been complete and therefore, their chances of surviving would have been higher.

Caspian leaned forward, his chin resting pensively on his interlocked hands. "War. Do you think we are there already? We do not even know who our enemy is."

Peter leveled him with an empathetic, yet unforgiving glance. "There has never been a course of action other than war when it comes to the White Witch and her followers. This narrative in itself has only begun developing but believe me, brother, it would do us best to prepare ourselves for war while we still have the upper hand."

Susan stopped walking, clasping her hands behind her back as she frowned at her brother. "Why are you talking like that?"

Peter frowned. "Like what?"

"Like we have already lost. We aren't even close to the dawn of this war yet you insist on making it as if we've already forfeit our lives."

At that, Peter scoffed. "Forgive me for being practical, sister. After having just won a war, the last thing our people need is to fight another one. I won't pretend to claim this strife will go anywhere like our previous one."

Susan walked towards the men, resting her hands on Caspian's seat once she neared them. "Of course they aren't similar. We are talking about different enemies, for once."

Peter couldn't help but laugh. He stood up, and walked towards the open window to his left. "Nice Su."

"Are we sure we aren't talking about the same enemy?" Caspian asked weakly. He looked between the Pevensie siblings. "This could perfectly be about a Telmarine trying to overthrow us."

"No," Peter shook his head. He crossed his arms, his serious gaze still on the forest right outside the walls of the castle. "It would be quite unique, for another Telmarine to be so unafraid of the old Narnian lore, that they would be eager to embrace it."

Susan straightened. "Then, we need to be prepared."

Peter turned towards her with a glare. "Exactly my thoughts, sister. Thank you for agreeing."

Susan returned his fiery glare with an icy one of her own. Between them, Caspian stared at the marble floor as if willing it to swallow him into oblivion. "Not by being overly dramatic and tragic, brother. We need to call on our old allies. If our people are too tired, then we need to make sure we do not stand alone whenever our enemy finally decides to show their face."

Peter and Susan stared at each other in silence, noticing that for the first time, there was no Edmund or Lucy to act as mediator.

For the first time, their team wasn't made of four people, but three.

And so, they had to learn how to be a team and they had to learn fast.

One second passed.

Two.

Then three.

By the fourth one, Peter walked towards his seat once again. "Archenland?"

Susan nodded. "Caspian and myself will go."

Caspian nodded his agreement. "It'll be a perfect opportunity to form an alliance between us Telmarines and Anvard."

Peter nodded as well. "I'll stay here. I can start setting up patrols, just in case we are able to catch anything."

Despite herself, Susan smirked. "It is quite the harsh job you have obtained for yourself, brother."

Peter raised his eyebrows. "Maybe, I should have instead volunteered to go on a romantic trip to Archenland with my beau."

Caspian frowned. "You don't have a beau, though."

Peter opened his mouth, ready to throw the first insult that would come into his mouth, when a swift knock resonated against the closed wooden door.

"Your Majesties!"

"Come in!" Susan called in return, barely holding her laughter as Peter huffed furiously and Caspian smiled innocently.

Trufflehunter entered the room, wisely choosing to ignore the various states of his fearless leaders as he bowed his head. "Your Majesties, we have just received word from our eagles keeping watch by our Southern border."

At once, the three royals straightened. That border was the one they shared with Archenland.

"What is it?" The Gentle Queen finally asked.

Trufflehunter took a breath before answering. "A small committee is making its way towards Narnia. The coat of arms was unmistakable. Prince Geon of Calormen is coming. He is expected to arrive this afternoon."